Sitting next to someone with a cold at church.

A few weeks ago, the person next to me at church didn’t have a nose.

They just had a faucet that was continually dripping extras from that Mucinex commercial. (Grossest mascot ever.)

They were also doing “sprinkler coughing.” That’s where you rotate your coughs from side to side, covering the most square foot radius with your germs like a sprinkler across a lawn.

Now I know what you’re thinking, “Jesus loved the lepers.”

That’s a good point, and I thought about it. Jesus was a friend and fan of the sick, but is there any Biblical proof that he sat next to one of them at church? Is there a scene from the Sermon on the Mount where he’s sitting in the crowd? Maybe Peter is introducing him, “Back from a 40 day tour in the desert, here for a very limited engagement, you’ve seen him walk on water, know he heals the sick, help me give a warm mount welcome to Jesus!”

And Jesus fist bumps that sick guy next to him, stands up and grabs the mic. Did that happen? Because otherwise I feel like this situation is not directly addressed. You can’t move seats either. That’s super rude if you have a small church.

I ended up staying there and just started wearing a feedbag of grapefruits and oranges around the house the rest of the day. Regardless, I didn’t do what a different lady at church did to me one day. During the middle of the sermon, she reached over and handed me a kleenex.

Don’t confuse that with compassion. If I had asked for a kleenex, that was compassion. Since I didn’t, the goal of that kleenex was simple, “Shut up. You are ruining the Jesus with all your coughing.”

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  1. says

    Holy Moly…that is a problem.

    I think I’d whipper to the person that I had the flu…and that I needed to move to the back, lest their cold could turn into something worse. Then run.

    • Amanda A says

      You can’t escape that at our church. The “greet your neighbor with a handshake or a hug” is after the invitation and closing announcements. So if you want out of that, you have to escape during the invitational song.

      • says

        You could always pack some hand sanitizer in your pocket. Mind you, hand sanitizer works well on bacteria, but is not so effective on viruses, which might give you some pause.

  2. says

    The Sick Whisperer:
    There needs to be that one ultra-nice, yet forceful usher named “Vernon” who can glide down aisles and rows like a vapor to handle these issues. No one can get mad at him because of his manner. When he says “Sir, I think you would be more comfortable sitting in the bathroom stall during the service today” it magically works.
    Yeah…we had one in our church growing up. Miraculous.

  3. Kathy says

    I think that handing out Kleenex, cough drops and mints could be a ministry in itself. Imagine strategically placed people throughout the worship center handing out those desperately needed items with great compassion, sympathy and a heartfelt “Bless your heart”.

    • Jeff is me says

      And Vernon needs a man-satchel with a wide range of supplies for various events: mints, cough drops, Kleenex, sanitary wipes, extra pens and pencils, crayons, tiny baggies of Cheerios, universal phone charger, and maps to nearby restaurants for the after-church lunch.

  4. Toni says

    I remained quite during worship last Sunday, and listened to the beautiful sounds of our church singing together. Unfortunately, I also heard a lot of coughing. Because I am slightly germophobic, I always carry hand wipes for myself and my children, but I also stop and pray for the health and well being of the congregation when I hear so many in need. I feel a sense of peace in turning my nagging worries over to God and also feel as if maybe I helped my fellow church goer s too!

  5. Laura B says

    I am fortunate to spend the service in the choir loft, where we all know each other well enough that if someone is in obvious need of something (mint, cough drop, tissue), someone else hands it to them. No offense, no hurt feelings. There’s even a certain germaphobic alto who will say, “you’re not contagious, I hope?” whenever someone sneezes or coughs. It’s like being with family, but without the emotional baggage.

  6. says

    I think the funniest part (sorry if that sounds sadistic) about church services with sick people is the noises they make. A couple months back I was in a church service where every so often (and especially during the pauses in the sermon) a person in the back who was grotesquely sick made a wheezing/suck phlegm noise. It was so loud you could hear it throughout the entire sanctuary. We don’t want that kind of evangelism, thank you.

  7. says

    Apparently you don’t have enough faith that Jesus will keep you healthy and well while you go love on that person…. I would hate to see you attempting to handle snakes.

  8. says

    Maybe they need laying on of hand sanitizer! As a Cosmetologist I am amazed at how when we ask a child why they are not in school, they will say “I am sick and so my mom brought me in for a haircut.” Really! So I know that a lot of hairdressers have infectuous personalities but that’s just “sick.” Bless you for real.

    • Rikki says

      I would post a sign on the door that says “If your child is out of school because he or she is sick, the child needs to be in bed resting, not here spreading germs.” But I’m a bit snarky that way. And I do think that the best place for a sick child is home in bed, or resting in front of the TV (being sick should have some pluses.)
      I homeschool my kids and my mom, who is a licensed Cosmetologist, cuts their hair. If any of us is sick, we all stay home.

  9. Jeff says

    I think it’s up to the sick to separate themselves from the group. Like the lepers in the bible. They go off by themselves and yell unclean when anyone comes near. Sounds harsh but it does work. Then those that feel that God has called them to work with the sick can find them as well. :-)

  10. says

    There should be a sister post of this where: you’re sick, in church, listening to the sermon and you feel that horrible tickle that lets you know you’re about to hack up a lung, and you try to keep it in but it comes out by way of tears and choking. Hate that.

  11. Scott Castle says

    John, do you ever feel people will begin to change their behavior around you or begin to “separate” themselves from you for fear that you’ll write about them?

    Granted, this would have been a plus in THIS case!


  12. says

    This is only a problem because of the stuffy atmosphere of absolute silence which is customary in most western churches.

    I’ve been in churches which were a lot noisier, and where you could blow your nose and not feel too self-conscious. But the traditional western norm is for the entire congregation to be as silent as a crypt except when they stand to sing, so you feel hugely self-conscious about making a sound.

    • Michelle says

      That is so true, Michael. There really isn’t anywhere else that we are expected to sit and listen (except school) and are ‘encouraged’ to keep our kids quiet if we keep them in during the sermon. And yet we are to be family! My family is NOT quiet, and I am so glad I worship at a church where everyone accepts the sound of kids during the service.

      And the freedom to blow your nose without everyone looking is a good thing. :)

    • Kristen says

      There are a lot of times I come late to service, and leave service early, because I don’t want to shake hands and hug. It’s not that I don’t like people, I just have a weak immune system. They aren’t judging you. Likely, they just want to let you know why they aren’t shaking your hand.

  13. says

    I think you’re projecting your own social anxiety on to your church pals, Jon. :) If I’m sick (or crying, which often involves a VERY runny nose) I will take any Kleenex – or towel, or old T-shirt – that’s offered.

    OTOH, I wouldn’t go to church if I was THAT sick! x_x;;; How much are you, the sick person, really getting out of church at that point anyways?

  14. Howie says

    One Sunday, my friend and me were running late to church. I HATE coming in late, only to wander around, looking for a seat. I suggested we could always sneak into the sound booth (we both work in there running media at times). She said, “It’s too distracting in there.” So, we wandered, found seats near the back, and settled in. A person on the left was hacking. A person behind us was hacking. Ahead, and to the right, a hacker/loud sniffer. The woman in front of me was wearing an odd shirt covered in creepy looking cats. An old man laboriously got up every few minutes to leave the room. “HACK!” “HACK!” “GET UP LABORIOUSLY….” “SNIIIIFFFFFF…….COUGH” “MEOW” Ok, I really didn’t hear meowing, but I could NOT stop staring at those cats!

    At the end of service, the getter upper was once again hobbling out, and an usher asked how he was doing. He responded, no, actually yelled, as old people do, “I’m alright, but it’s this DAMN LEG that’s getting to me!” We just busted up at that point. I asked, “What was that you were saying about the sound room being distracting?” I wonder what the sermon was about…

    • Kreine says

      This had me in tears!

      And reminded me: once, when my pastor was giving the invitation, a hearing-impaired woman shouted, “Oh, my GAWD! My leg fell asleep!”

      I was playing the invitation song & could barely keep it together.

      • Howie says

        Oh, I hear ya….the things we see/hear from the stage! One day I was on worship, and it was a communion Sunday. All of the elders were in the back of the room, holding the “elements” (NOT “crackers” and “juice”…we’re spiritual, so it’s “elements”–haha!), and one of them dumped his tray. It was a super solemn moment, but there they were, running around like the keystone cops…holding in my laughter almost killed me!

  15. Sarah May says

    I din’t go to church when I am sick. Because I take the bus I have to wake up earlier,walk to and from the bus stop,sit through a sermon which I will not really pay attention because I am sick,I don’t like the thought of make others sick.

  16. Kristen says

    There is a solution to this… If you don’t 100% have to be somewhere when you are sick, (school, church, work, the store, the movies, mall, etc…), DON’T GO! The elderly, small children, and those with weakened immune systems can catch your 24-hour case of the sniffles and be sick for days or WEEKS! A lot of people end up in the hospital because of people that won’t stay home when they’re sick.

    I, myself, am sick because someone at my home church got my parents sick. I’ve had to go to the ER, I’m on a bunch of different medicines, and now I sound like I’m dying every time I cough. All of this, just because someone wanted to push through the day with their flu.

  17. John says

    You could keep a small vial of oil in your fanny pack for moments like this. No one would fault you for pouring it over the cougher’s head. The problem might just remove itself.

  18. Sharon says

    Thanks for judging. As someone with asthma, winters can be brutal, and I spend more time coughing than not. I am glared at, people “recommend” that I go home until I feel better, and in general, I am made to feel like an outcast. Maybe I should have a shirt made that says, ” Excuse the cough. I’m not sick, I have Asthma.”

  19. Beth says

    Once while in Ethiopia, I sat next to a man that kept coughing and spitting into a bag at church. I prayed for him silently, assuming he had TB or some terrible illness. (I also prayed for myself for fear I would catch it). Later I discovered he and about 100 other coughing parishioners were “coughing” out evil within. They would cough and spit into bags and then take the bags up to the alter. Awesome.

  20. Mary Ann Marko says

    During cold/flu season my church informs everyone , “Since it is flu season, please say good morning to your neighbor, but feel free not to shake hands, an elbow bump will work just fine.” They make light of it. Everyone laughs and it avoids that awkwardness and the need to shake hands. I really wish when people are sick that they would avoid going to work and church (where you are in close quarters). Do everyone a favor and don’t spread the flu bug; your miserable, why make the rest of us.

  21. ClintM says

    At my church, after the worship and before we sit down, they usually ask us to take a moment and say hello to a few people around you. Last winter during flu season they said, “Say hello to a few people around you, and refrain from shaking hands because everyone is sick, but fist bumps are encouraged.”

  22. Turtle says

    God love all you judgemental christians..what would the world
    Be without yall!!! And yes Jesus stood directly in front of a Leper and healed instead of running from your sick how bout u man up and pray with them or extend ur hand and pray!

    8 When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. 2 A man with leprosy[a] came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

    3 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. 4 Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

    • spinetingler says

      Yeah, Jesus – son of God, healer, etc. He had nothing to fear from a random virus.

      Us regular folks though…

  23. Dean says

    While this is pretty bad, I think it’s worse when the elderly come to church while they aren’t feeling well then he/she faints or collapses so that the service is interrupted and the ambulance needs to be called to come take them to the hospital to make sure they are okay. That totally ruins the Jesus too.

  24. Moriah says

    The worst is when it’s communion, and the guy sitting next to you is coughing like crazy, directly into his hands (NOT his elbows, like your supposed to), and then he gets up to pass out the “elements”,


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